Meet Our Partner: Monterey Bay Aquarium
Located about 40 miles south of San Franciso on California's central coast, Monterey Bay is home to one of the cutest and most iconic marine mammal species in the Pacific Ocean: the southern sea otter. Although this species is listed as "threatened," Monterey Bay is one of their strongholds and much of the southern sea otters' success there can be attributed to the diligent work of our partner, Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Photo: The Monterey Bay Aquarium is located right on the shores of Monterey Bay, close to the southern sea otter population they help care for.
To support the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Otter Program, we released the 4ocean Sea Otter Bracelet, which is helping to advance critical work related to southern sea otters. This bracelet also pulls a pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines while furthering public education and awareness about the current state of sea otter populations throughout the Pacific Rim.
Check out this awesome video about our trip out there to see them. WARNING: Level 10 Cuteness!
Photo: Southern sea otter enjoys a rest on the surface.
While we're focusing on the work that Monterey Bay Aquarium does on behalf of southern sea otters, their other programs are wide-ranging and have impacts on many aspects of ocean conservation. These are their five main priorities of focus:
- California Ocean Health
- Thriving Ocean Wildlife
- Sustainable Fisheries & Aquaculture
- Ocean Plastic Pollution
- Climate Action for the Ocean
And their focus on these priorities is driven by:
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Otter Program
For decades, Monterey Bay Aquarium has been the epicenter of southern sea otter recovery. With historical numbers ranging between 16,000 and 20,000 individuals, southern sea otters were hunted almost to extinction in the early 1900s and have been playing catch up ever since. Today, their population numbers just over 3,000 individuals.
The work that the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Otter Program is doing to facilitate their continued resurgence is second to none. Over the last 30 years, more than 700 sea otter adults and pups have come through the program –– literally, no other facility in the world is doing more for sea otter recovery.
And this is a critical time for southern sea otters because they face a number of man-made and natural threats that could have long-term negative impacts on the future of the species. However, through this cutting-edge program, Monterey Bay Aquarium are giving the southern sea otter its best chance for long-term survival. This program is based on four elements of success. Let's take a quick look at each one.
The Four R's
Rescue: There are many reasons why a southern sea otter may need rescuing. Things like illness, injury, exposure to pollutants, or being orphaned as a pup can threaten a sea otter's survival. Monterey Bay Aquarium is always on the lookout for and prepared to help if one of these animals needs rescuing. They will capture and care for these individuals 24/7 all in hopes of returning them to the wild in a healthy and vibrant condition.
Photo: Monterey Bay Aquarium keeping watch for injured or ill southern sea otters.
Photo: Feeding a rescued southern sea otter. The "Darth Vader" suit, as it is known, is worn by the handler so that the sea otter doesn't imprint a positive experience on humans.
Rehabilitation: There have been many breakthroughs over the years as Monterey Bay Aquarium advances rehabilitation techniques for southern sea otters. However, none may be more impactful than their one-of-a-kind sea otter surrogacy program. Here they match their exhibit animals (ones that cannot be released into the wild) with orphaned pups to teach them the necessary skills they will need to survive once they're released back into the ocean.
Photo: Surrogate mother sea otter teaching a rescued orphan pup how to hunt for shellfish in the rehabilitation tank.
Photo: The one-of-a-kind sea otter surrogacy program was pioneered and developed at Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Release: The goal of every southern sea otter rescue is ultimately the release of those animals back into the wild. After release, the Monterey Bay Aquarium continues to track and monitor those sea otters for the rest of their lives. By keeping in contact with these otters, they can monitor how rehabilitated animals adapt to life back in the wild while also keeping track of their relative health and well-being because they still face threats like disease, oil spills, limited food supply, and shark bites.
Photo: Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Otter Progam releasing a southern sea otter back into the wild.
Photo: Monterey Bay Aquarium team tracking released southern sea otters in order to document their continued health and well-being.
Research: This is a key component of everything that Monterey Bay Aquarium does regarding southern sea otters. Their groundbreaking research helps to advance scientific knowledge globally and increases their ability to raise public awareness about the plight of sea otters wherever they are found. Ongoing research also contributes to the base of knowledge regarding how sea otters help create and maintain healthy coastal ecosystems throughout their range.
Photo: Sea otters are a keystone species which means they're integral to the health of the nearshore ecosystems they inhabit.
That was just a quick snapshot of all the amazing work being done for southern sea otters at Monterey Bay Aquarium. Make sure to check them out online for more information and if you are planning a trip to the area be sure to stop by and see all the cool things they have on exhibit. And if you want to donate directly to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Otter Program, click here.
Have you ever seen a southern sea otter in the wild? What was that experience like? Let us know in the comments section below.
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